Laurentiu Reghecampf hopes that Al Wahda will finally mount a serious Arabian Gulf League title challenge after years of false dawns.
The Romanian was unveiled as the Clarets’ new coach yesterday and insisted the Abu Dhabi giants are strong enough to lift a first domestic crown in eight years.
The Al Nahyan outfit have recorded second and third-placed finishes in the last four campaigns, as well as won the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup in the last two. Yet they have failed to seriously trouble the UAE’s elite since hoisting a fourth UAE title in 2009/10 – and first of the professional era.
“The team is strong. They’ve played together for a few years and they know each other. I hope with my knowledge and experience I can bring the team to fight for the championship,” Reghecampf, the two time former Steaua Bucurest and ex-Al Hilal supremo, said.
“Everybody knows we have very good players. The team is very strong. With these players I think we can have success and win trophies.
“For me it’s a big challenge to win a trophy. Everywhere I go I want to win. My work is to be a strong team and, why not, to win the championship.”
Despite finishing runners-up to Al Ahli in the 2013/14 campaign, Wahda were a woeful 16 points adrift of the Red Knights. The nearest they finished behind the champions was the next campaign when they still trailed champions Al Ain by 13 points.
Since their last triumph, Wahda have consistently failed to seriously challenge for the AGL title – finishing 22, 22, 23, 16, 13 and 23 points adrift of top spot in the following seven seasons. Last year saw them finish even further off the top than before – a huge 29 points behind runaway champions, and capital city nieghbours, Al Jazira.
But having led the Crescent to the 2015 AFC Champions League final – albeit they were upset in a 1-0 defeat to Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers – Reghecampf feels his previous experience of Middle Eastern football is an advantage to him.
“I think it is our job to work under pressure,” said the 41-year-old.
“You need to do this if you want success. I like this and working in big clubs. The pressure is not a problem for me.
“I liked the time spent in Saudi Arabia. I had big moment with them (Hilal) and I remember nice things about the club and country. I hope this experience will help me in Al Wahda.
“I like the championship, I like the climate. When I finished the contract with Hilal I had some meetings about some clubs in the Emirates. I like it here. The football has come up. They have amazing teams, amazing players, great coaches.”
Despite setting his sights high, the man capped once by the Tricolorii in a 2003 ???? with Denmark, is realistic of Wahda’s chances of league glory next season.
“We hope we can change that (having not won the title in so long,” he said.
“It’s very difficult. It’s a very strong competition. You have three, four or five teams every year trying to win it. It’s not easy. We will work together and we hope to this year have better results. You have teams with fantastic players and excellent coaches.”
The former Energie Cottbus midfielder, who has signed a one-year deal at Al Nahyan, aimed a slight dig at predecessor Javier Aguirre by insisting he wants Wahda to play more offensive football under his reign.
Although Wahda scored more goals (54) last year than in any other previous AGL campaign in the modern era, they also drew nine games, the second most in the league.
He added: “I don’t want to speak about last season. I see a lot of games. They had a great coach with great experience. I think I have to make the team more offensive.
“Fans want to see the team score a lot of goals, have a lot of possession, and for these things I have to work hard, with the players.”
Wahda will return to pre-season next week and then head to Egypt for the Arab Club Championship taking place between July 21 and August 5. The Clarets have been drawn in Group A alongside home favourites Al Ahly with the winners of the three groups and the best-placed runner-up qualifying for the semi-finals.
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